Food Poisoning in the News: Taco Bell and E.coli

Early in November 20, 2006, it was learned that there was an outbreak of the bacterium Escherichia Coli 0157:H7, or simply known as E.coli and this was associated to Taco Bell restaurants in the northeastern United States. Then, on October 14, 2006, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or CDC declared that the outbreak seemed to be over.

71 Cases Reported

There were at least 71 cases which were reported to the CDC in 5 states: the New Jersey with 33 cases, New York with 22 cases, Pennsylvania with 13 cases, Delaware with only 2 cases, and South Carolina with one case. From these 71 people, 53 cases or 75% were hospitalized and 8 cases or 11% acquired a kind of kidney failure known as hemolytic-uremic syndrome or HUS. The highest incidence was on the last week of November.

Causes of the Outbreak

The outbreak of E.coli was caused by the consumption of grated Iceberg lettuce. US Food and Drug Administration or FDA was working closely with the state health agencies and the CDC to probe about the correct source of the grated lettuce and to determine where the lettuce came from. It is too early to conclude how the lettuce was contaminated.

Early reports pointed a link to the consumption of green onions were inappropriate and unconfirmed. There was no sign that any kind of onions such as green onions were unsafe or were linked to E.coli outbreak.

What is E. coli?

Escherichia coli 0157:H7, or simply called as E.coli, is just one of the hundreds of strains of the pathogenic bacterium Escherichia coli. While most of the strains are harmless and thrive in the intestines of healthy humans and animals, this particular strain generates a strong toxin that can cause severe disease.

Infections can cause diarrhea which is usually with blood. Healthy adults fully recover within one week. Infection among the very young, the elderly, or health-compromised persons, such as those with weak immune system, this can be more chronic. Some may progress to a kind of kidney failure which is known as Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome or HUS, a condition that may lead to permanent kidney damage and even death.

Advice for Consumers

Customers who think they may have exposed to E.coli 0157:H7 infection must contact their healthcare professional to seek medical evaluation and medication.

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